My Double Life….

A little look at the double life of a Mummy and the person she used to be.

For the past 4 year’s I have been living a slightly crazy, incredibly busy but very enjoyable double life, in my two world’s, as I like to call them.

In one of these worlds I am known as Mummy and in the other I am known as Michelle.

Many of you will be in the exact same position, juggling a work and a home life, so you will know what I mean and maybe feel the same (are we over-analysing?). Some of you may not think about it much, (I know, you’re busy) and some of you may not even really be consciously aware of it (wow, you’re super busy).

Well, I have been pondering this for the past couple of weeks now, as I have recently returned to work after a year’s maternity leave with my second child. In this past year’s scenario, my Mummy world has been the dominant force, my main focus being nurturing The Boy through his first year, from newborn to adorable whirlwind. So Michelle has had to take a back seat. Now it’s back to work and it’s more like 50/50 or maybe 60/40, in Michelle’s favour.

Here are some thoughts and observations on the subject. I’m going to talk about myself(s) in the 3rd person here, as it works better, just go with it for now.

In this double life, I am obviously just one physical person. Wow, just imagine if there were two of me, the housework…. (I mean amazing things) I could achieve. Anyway, many elements of these two manifestations of myself are similar. For example, Mummy and Michelle live in the same house, have 1 husband and 2 children etc…

But at the same time, many things are different. For example physical tangible things like clothing and accessories.

Also intangible elements like language, the way I act and the way I approach a task.

Then there are ‘cross-over elements’ (are you still with me?). Ok here goes….

Michelle wears makeup and gets to spend a small amount of time thinking about her appearance. Mummy doesn’t know where the makeup is kept and in any case when would she apply this exactly? If you think she should maybe get up a few minutes earlier to squeeze this in, then I don’t think we can be friends. EVERY SECOND OF SLEEP COUNTS….

I know some women would wince at this, it’s not that Mummy doesn’t care about appearance, it’s more about knowing your audience and makeup comes under category – ‘non-essential’.

Mummy has her clothes and so does Michelle, there are some cross-over items here, the odd cardy or pair of jeans but I do feel it’s important to be quite strict in this area. Whilst Mummy can borrow a smart item if the occasion arises, Michelle cannot, for example, go to work in a Mummy item. The holes, the stretches, the sticky food marks, the snot, oh it just doesn’t bear thinking about. For Michelle, the most important thing is that her clothing is protected, at all costs. By this, I’m referring to times like that difficult hour before leaving for work. She is dressed as Michelle but very much in Mummy territory. Here, she is behind enemy lines, constantly under fire and alone. Those little sticky hands and snotty faces are everywhere, she must act quickly to protect herself. Just imagine a scenario where she was hit by enemy artillery fire and perhaps in the carnage didn’t notice and turned up to work (where the young immaculate people are) with vomit or toothpaste slime on her shoulder. Mortifying. Just mortifying. I have taken to wearing a coverall (an old pyjama top) over my work clothes, which seems to be doing the trick.

Michelle runs. She runs to keep fit and feel good and for a bit of her own space and thinking time. Mummy also runs but much shorter distances. From the lounge to the kitchen to get snacks maybe or upstairs to pee, rushing frantically back to check a child hasn’t, in that short time, managed to mortally wound themselves.

Language is something many of us modify depending on who we are with and this situation is no different. Mummy uses phrases like ‘poo poo’ & and ‘dum-dums’ and every morning shouts things like ‘SHOES’ and ‘TEETH’, and although these one syllable outbursts are generally not required in Michelle Land I feel that potentially at work they might actually provoke a more proactive response!
Mummy obviously doesn’t use bad language and is very proficient now at the “oh for …..sake” and the “sh sh sh sugar”. But ****ing hell Michelle likes to swear, a lot. I know, it’s not big and it’s not clever but boy does it make me feel good, pretty much always. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a disease, probably contagious? I wonder how many people I have infected? Luckily, I am surrounded by fellow (mostly incurable) sufferers like myself, which is comforting.

Mummy gets to occasionally (very occasionally) feel like a Superhero. You know the days where you beat the washing, everyone eats what you serve and you manage to arrive places on time.

Michelle gets to have conversations, I mean actual full conversations where you don’t have to leave half way through without even apologising.

Mummy gets to sing silly song’s and dance whilst walking around the supermarket. Yes, this behaviour is quite unbelievably totally acceptable if you have young children with you. Also very liberating, try it, it’s brilliant!

Michelle gets to pee alone.

Mummy, if given an hour whilst the baby sleeps, turns into a super-fast ninja warrior. The sheer volume of output that can be achieved within this minuscule 1-hour time-frame would blow the minds of most mere mortals. She could just sit and drink tea but she doesn’t. It’s one of those unwritten rules and would bring great shame on her people.

Michelle gets to finish ALL of her meal should she wish to. Not having to sacrifice any part of it (normally the best part) to small scavengers that 5 minutes ago couldn’t possibly manage even one more pea.

Mummy gets to spend time with 2 wonderful little people, watching on in amazement at every tiny & ordinary thing they do.

Finding the ideal balance between these two worlds is a constant challenge. Occasionally I yearn for more of Michelle, a brief reminder of the life I used to live before I had to share it with Mummy.

Mummy feels the pressure of guilt, for working and not being there 24/7 for her children.

But I can honestly say, in the grand scheme, it’s nice to have variation in my life and to be different things to different people. And the rewards, in both worlds, on a good day, are plentiful.


The Boy Who Rocked The Boat….

The story of my son joining our little world and filling it with smiles.

This boy, the boy in the photograph, the chubby-cheeked handsome little fella is my son. And he is 1 year old today. I am thinking about him a lot today, so let me tell you some things about when we met and our first year together.

This last year, this last wonderful year was the fastest in living memory! I really must go back and check that 365 whole actual days past because it sure doesn’t feel like it!! My daughter, now 4, seemed to be a tiny baby forever and the memories of that really linger even now but with him he was little for what seems like a few weeks and the images in my mind are so vague already. That’s the thing isn’t it with second or subsequent children, you’re so busy keeping all the cogs of life turning that time just disappears, alarmingly quickly. I am very conscious of this now, so I try to stop and take in moments as often as possible, you should do too. And I love photography so I try and capture our lives in still-frame when I can, showcasing our journey on the walls of our house. I love catching a cheeky grin from a frame in the corner of my eye as I rush down the stairs with the 3rd load of washing.

I am not with my son today as I am back at work, which makes me sad. I think about how he arrived into this world, as all mothers do, on more occasions than they’re probably comfortable admitting. Carrying a baby and bringing them into the world is one of those things that just cannot be understood by those who haven’t done it (sorry but it can’t!) It is physically and mentally life changing and stays with you always. Today I look back and I smile as I think of the mad dash to the hospital (with a 3-year-old in tow, reprimanding me for facing the wrong way in the passenger seat of the car and not wearing a seatbelt!). I thank whoever you should thank for the 1-hour 50-minute labour/birth experience, compared to the previous 32-hour epic marathon. And then I remember seeing him for the first time, bringing him close to me and this time it was like the movies (as I wasn’t a dribbling mess from being in labour for nearly 2 days) I couldn’t believe how perfect he was and how my heart just ached with love.

When I found out our second baby would be a boy I am not too proud or ashamed to admit that I was mostly completely terrified. A boy, what do I do with a boy? Our family is massively female dominated, ‘Girls Rule OK!’ I would be bringing an alien being into our lives. Well OK, a human baby but not one like me or my daughter. I felt very out of my comfort zone. Don’t they just run around roaring and using inanimate objects as weapons? What about drawing and doing stickers? What about sitting in restaurants with Mummy and Daddy having a nice meal, how the hell is this all going to work? Isn’t he going to rock the boat and unbalance the delicate equilibrium of our little family of 3? My husband and I had dedicated the last 3 years of lives to our daughter, everything we did revolved around her and we loved her to every corner of both our hearts, so how on earth would it be possible to love another small human the same amount? Where would that love come from? We were both phased by this, it just didn’t seem possible.

Hah! These thoughts make me laugh now. Yes, he rocked the boat and gatecrashed our world but in the most wonderful way possible.

Because my boy is just the loveliest little thing and has always been a very happy, smiley and content baby. My year off work with him and getting to spend more time with my daughter too was sort of life-changing really and has helped me to redefine what is truly important to me. This second maternity leave experience has been very different to the first. Yes better, but not because the first time was bad but just because the second time around you are naturally better at everything, more relaxed, comfortable in your own skin and slightly less emotionally challenged shall I say! Although him being a brilliant sleeper and breastfeeder, combined with not screaming relentlessly for 2 hrs every evening really helped! The boy’s not perfect though, every nappy & clothing change is a battle, being still is not a skill he is looking to excel in anytime soon. Items of clothing are often just abandoned if not 100% essential (got to pick your battles). And he is everywhere before you blink, can’t take my eyes off this one for a second.

However you’ll be pleased to know that my son does not terrify me and I am now confident in my role as Mother to a girl and Mother to a boy. Being flexible & adaptable are top of the parenting job description, so yes I can now make playdoh princess dresses in one hand and drive a Toot Toot car with the other. And anyway I hate all the gender stereotypes. My daughter has always liked cars and trains and my son (for now) likes dolls. There are challenges ahead and some of those that I will face with my son will be different to those I face with my daughter. But I am ready, bring on your best roaring and your most imaginative fake weaponry. I’ll be at the table doing stickers….

Oh and by the way we found out what happens to the already bulging parental heart, it’s all true, it does indeed just grow and expand to whatever size is required to engulf your babies in love. How could it possibly not?

At the end of this momentous year, I want my son to know what a pleasure it has been to get to know him and I thank him for bringing more happiness than I could have imagined to all three of our lives.

Back To Work – The End Or The Beginning?

Returning to work after maternity leave can provoke many emotions – this is my story

So here I am. On a train to London, for the first time in a year. I have tears in my eyes and fear & guilt in my heart but on I go from Sussex to central London for my first day back at work after our second child, ‘The Boy’ as we affectionately (if not slightly obviously) call him.

I am now an ‘experienced parent’ this is my second go at this, you’re supposed to be better at something second time round aren’t you? But I am failing miserably, trying to hide my tears from fellow commuters in several fake nose blowing sessions (in the epic bag packing session that took place last night, extra tissues were deposited in mummy’s bag), I secretly congratulate myself on my forward thinking.

I contemplate getting off at East Croydon, going back the other way and rescuing my babies from their nursery hell and the mild-mannered nursery practitioners that they quite clearly adore. In my head, I’d just sit and hug them for the rest of the day, squeeze them, breath them in, promise I will never leave them again. Until the big one protests with a polite but angry ‘no thank you Mummy’ and the little one wipes snot on my shoulder and wrestles from my clutches, scuttling away to find something infinitely more interesting (and dangerous) to do. At least this thought makes me smile.

And so we continue, it’s a lovely sunny morning so I grab tea to go and walk slowly (so very slowly) to my office. The tea costs nearly £2 and it’s disgusting so I throw it away half way through. Jesus, I’m a woman on the edge, I don’t need a tea related crisis right now! I walk on, feeling sick and nervous praying to myself that I won’t breakdown in front of my colleagues. Every single step vibrates through my body, boom boom boom. Just a few metres to go and the world I have known for the past year will cease to exist. The world I have worked so hard to create & nurture and finally after weeks and weeks of practice got really good at has to completely change.

I get through the day but it’s hard, I talk about it, which is good. The other mums offer unreserved sympathy which I appreciate and the younger folk laugh at me, which I also appreciate.

I’m not busy, people are not sure what to do with me yet, so in amongst sorting endless IT issues my mind wanders. I think about what I would be doing on a ‘normal’ Monday (in my other world). I’d be at my mum’s (Grandma’s), with my sister and my nephew, we just hang out, doing normal family stuff. Our children eat too much cake and sweets and fight over ridiculous things and my sister and I enjoy mum’s cooking. It’s nothing special but sort of is at the same time. It’s part of our routine and I miss it already.

How I feel is not hard to explain really, it’s a mixture of guilt & sadness. Like grief I suppose, missing something so much it physically hurts. I’m not ok today but its ok to not be ok for a little bit as long as you find a way to pick yourself up. I know tomorrow will be better and in a few weeks our brave new world will be in full flow and I’ll look back with fondness and smile and each time I do it will hurt a little less.

I make it through the rest of the week, I get to pee alone and drink whole cups of tea, hot tea, right to the end of the cup. Things are unexpectedly slow so actually I end up having a lot of time to myself, something I am unaccustomed to. I gratefully accept this small gift and I use it to breathe and think and adapt.

By the end of the week, I am feeling far less fragile and much more emotionally stable. I rationalise that whilst this wonderful period of our lives has drawn to a close, this is not only an ending but it is also a beginning, the beginning of the next part of our journey.

And for that I am excited! Deep breath, here we go……

A Little Introduction

Parenting, it’s a struggle, but a joy and whilst you’re muddling blindly through, juggling all of those balls, so many thoughts go through your head. Many of them disappear into the abyss, the important and the insignificant alike but some stick around for a bit, so I have decided to write a few of mine down and share them. Not because I think I’m good at this, I’m no writer and I’m no Mary Poppins. I don’t know the answers, blimey I don’t even know most of the questions! But because I have found it helps, it helps me to rationalise the craziness. And maybe, just maybe, it could help other parents too.

You see the thing is, parenting, particularly for mums with young babies, can be a very lonely place. I’ve been there, I know. But, guess what, you are not alone, there are so many of us, everywhere (a bit like rats). All striving to find that delicate balance between providing and nurturing, ‘time’ being our relentless & unforgiving nemesis. We fight the same battles every day, judging ourselves harshly and rewarding ourselves rarely (if you don’t count the wine).

So let’s talk and let’s write and lets share. Tell me about your day. Think no one’s interested? Well I am.

Trying to get my own thoughts down and into some kind of legible format will be a challenge and bearing my soul to the world seems like a potentially dangerous idea but let’s give it a go, I’m in that kind of mood. Together I hope we can laugh and learn and help each other, along this most epic of journeys.

I’ll go first, here’s a little bit about me:

I’m a 30-something working Mum with 2 young children. A tea drinker, cake eater, marketer, runner, aspiring photographer, erratic wife, annoying sister, playdoh master, washerwomen, chef and general dogs body.

This is me and these are my words….